ADRIAN BLACKMORE, of the Countryside Alliance (HAS, Dec 13), purports to show a decline in the number of instances of persecution involving birds of prey by interpreting statistics published by the RSPB.

It is notoriously difficult to determine even a reasonable number of incidents due to the nature and size of the area of potential transgression, so reported incidents are not a valid basis for analysis. And in his analysis Mr. Blackmore only deals with incidents of poisoning, yet there are other known applied methods of persecution. As Sir Winston Churchill famously remarked: “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”

Where reliable information is difficult to obtain another method of establishing whether persecution is practised is to look whether an indicator species is present or not in its recognised habitat.

On moorland this would be the hen harrier.

This year it has been reported that only one pair attempted to nest in England.

For more than 30 years, I have travelled the Northern moors and have seen only one hen harrier.

I visited Langholm Moor on many occasions when the RSPB was in negotiation with the Earl of Dalkieth and could find several pairs within telescope range.

I have no issue with wealthy individuals wishing to control predators but obliteration by persecution is a completely different issue. Why are hen harriers virtually absent from the wide acres of lush undulating moorland in England.

If is not persecution Mr Blackmore, what is it?

Name and address supplied.